What is the real secret to keeping breading on a piece of meat? No matter what I try the stuff always seems to fall off once I put it in the pan. Is the type of oil an issue? Type of breading? Moisture source (egg, milk?)?
I think the flour+egg prior to the breading is what really ensures the "stick" of the bread coating on a piece of meat. I've breaded with all kinds of stuff successfully using the three step process: lightly dredge in flour + dip in egg + dredge in crumbs [italian bread crumbs, panko, home made, etc.]. My mom used to make this dish that involved dipping/spreading fish paste on strips of pork before boiling/frying [it's a Taiwanese thing], and her "a-ha" moment came when she discovered that coating the pork with corn starch or flour prior to dipping was what would make the fish paste stick and not fall off during cooking.
For a basic breading, I dredge the meat, fish or poultry in flour and shake off as much as possible; then into egg wash (egg beaten with a little milk); then into the bread or panko crumbs. (All these elements should be seasoned - s&p and whatever spice/herb you want.) A little assembly line.
The real trick, I think, is to do this at least an hour (or more) before cooking. I lay the coated pieces on a wax paper lined pan and put it in the fridge - uncovered. This gives the breading time to sort of 'dry' and better adhere to the meat. And yes, make sure your oil is hot enough so the the crust quickly crisps and doesn't fall apart in tepid oil.
Pat the meat dry with a paper towel before putting it into the egg wash. It seems contradictory in terms of the wetness factor, but I learned this from a chef friend of mine and sure enough, it works!
TiggyBee's advice is good. Very important that the meat is dry before doing any breading.
thanks--great answers. will try with chicken piccata tomorrow.
The real secret is science. So much of cooking and baking begins with the words, "It all depends. . ." There are many reasons for coatings that don't coat, ranging from the incredible shrinking breading to gluey breading that sticks to everything (fingers, tongs, the skillet) except the meat. Flour vs. cornstarch (or both) with or without baking powder and/or baking soda, whole eggs vs. egg white only vs. buttermilk vs. egg and buttermilk, toasted homemade breadcrumbs vs. panko vs. a second dredging in flour, Bisquick and beer or flour and club soda and vodka--because the possibilities for breading are myriad, so are the reasons for falling-off breading.
After 40 years of trying every recipe in the world for fried chicken (I love that chicken from Popeye's!), wiener schnitzel, scallopine, pork cutlets and such, I stopped frying in oil and started frying in the oven. (Except for Chicken Fried Steak: http://www.food52.com/foodpickle... ) I did not switch to oven-frying for health reasons--I switched because the so-so frying results weren't worth cleaning up the mess on the counter and the stove. I will return to frying coated meat when I am able to hire staff to wash three gluey bowls and forks, the countertop, a rack and a baking sheet (for drying the breading), a skillet, the stovetop, a splatter screen, tongs, a paper towel-lined plate, and another rack and baking sheet for draining the finished product.
For some good lessons on the science of breading, start with the meat recipes at americastestkitchen.com and cookscountry.com which are both free offshoot sites of Cook's Illustrated. The part of each recipe titled, "Why This Recipe Works" will tell you the science that makes the breading stay put. Start with the recipe for Pork Schnitzel.
Agree absolutedly with the flour/egg/crumbs process, along with the hot-enough oil. "Frying" in the oven is healthier and less messy, but doesn't yield the same flavor, to me. The other key, in my book, is to leave the meat on one side long enough to get a good golden brown, otherwise the breading will still to the pan. And only turn it once! Patience is the name of the game; you can watch the sides and tell when the golden color starts creeping up. It won't burn as quickly as you think it will!
Flour-egg (or milk)-crumbs/cornmeal works well. That's how my daddy taught me.
And the oil temp is important. A friend gave me this trick, which he learned in a Chinese cooking class: heat the oil until it will bubble when you stick the end of a wooden chop stick in it. I find that the handle of a wooden spoon works well too. Easier than taking the oil's temperature, and it always works for me.
Thanks, all! The flour/egg/crumb followed by one hour in the fridge worked great!! My best piccata EVAH, as they say here in Boston. :-)
I did some reading and what helps is the suggestion of drying the meat with paper towels before dipping in flour
This worked perfectly! Thanks for the tip.